While golf and skiing feel basic, they do take the core of each sport as the focus for how you play them using Kinect. If you've ever seen any golf or skiing on TV you'll know what to do straight away, which is essential for a game built around party play. Tutorial videos can be watched, but you know the game has been designed well when anyone can wander in front of Kinect and just start playing.
On the bottom of the pile are tennis and American football. Tennis suffers from a lack of connection between your on-screen racket, your actions and the ball. It's perfectly possible to hit the ball despite it being nowhere near the on-screen racket, and at times the game thought I was serving even when my hand was motionless. You can have some mild fun waving your arm about as a racket, but compared to all the other games included in the package, tennis feels a little ropey.
American football suffers from being far too simple, despite its mechanics working fine. Essentially all you do is throw the ball to one of three receivers once an icon above their heads turns green, then run on the spot to charge up the field until you score a Touchdown or are tackled. Fail to reach the Endzone in the set number of downs, and you're forced to take a field kick at goal, which so far have been so easy I've never missed. Victories don't feel earned and the lack of depth means there's no reason to keep coming back.
Most of the core sports feature extra activities built around the same gameplay mechanics. In darts you have to pop as many balloons as possible on a spinning board, whereas golf has greens appearing in the sea, with you scoring points depending on where you manage to land the ball. Skiing becomes more of an obstacle course; baseball becomes all about clocking up homeruns; and tennis has you attempting to hit mascots on the other side of the court.
All the core sports can be played alone against AI, versus a friend or with numerous other people in a party mode - in which a mascot character replaces the usual avatars. You can also play online via Xbox LIVE or, new to Kinect Sports 2, send challenges to other players. These challenges are based on the bonus games associated with each sport, so for example, you might set a score for pop darts and then ask an Xbox LIVE or same-console friend to beat it.
One of the best attributes of the original Kinect Sports was its presentation, and the same is true of this follow-up. While the visuals are quite basic they capture the essence of each sport with bold colours, and the use of avatars gives the game a personal touch. Better still is the music, with a whole host of licensed tracks playing at various points, giving a real party feel to the experience. Sadly, while the post-game full-motion videos of your antics are great fun when put with Duck Sauce's Barbra Streisand, they're let down by jerky motion and the tiny duration of each clip.
One of the promoted new features of Kinect Sports Season 2 is voice control, but this proved to be more of a hindrance than a help. The idea is that you can use your voice to move through menus and carry out tasks during each game - such as change your golf club or request the ball in American football. In practice I found myself repeatedly trying to issue commands, with the game recognising my command once in every four tries or so. If they worked, the voice commands would definitely streamline the user interface, but sadly that wasn't my experience at all.
Kinect Sports Season 2 isn't a super authentic recreation of sports, but that isn't really what this series is about. No matter who you are you'll likely have fun messing about with what's on offer here, especially if you're in the company of friends. American football and tennis let the side down, but overall this is another fun, albeit slightly flawed, party game for Kinect.